This week we lost one of the most humane people in journalism, famed photojournalist and character Tim Page has passed away from liver cancer, on August 22, 2022. Tim always said, “It was more important to be a decent human being than a great photographer.” Ben Bohane, an Australian friend and fellow photojournalist described Page, “His humanism, through his photojournalism, really shone through. He was one of the world’s great war photographers as well as a real humanist.”
Tim and I started a conversation July of 2021 in the middle of the Covid. Tim was interested in my passion in photojournalism and I am grateful he encouraged me and others in their pursuits of photography and journalism. Tim gave lectures on the subject. We were to have an interview, but he had injured his leg at the time and had other family matters pending. Dennis Hoppers character in the 1979 block buster film Apocalypse Now was based on Tim. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocalypse_Now
Tim reviewed with me my foray to North Vietnam in 1993 where I interviewed a North Vietnamese woman fighter Tran Tilly, who shot down one of our US planes. He even mentioned that maybe we would one day shoot together in Hanoi. Here is more on Tim Page the legend.
Wikipedia on Tim Page
Tim Page (25 May 1944 – 24 August 2022) was a British-Australian photographer who made his name during the Vietnam War, and was later based in Brisbane, Australia.
Page was born on 25 May 1944 in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. He left England in 1962 making his way overland driving through Europe, Pakistan, India, Burma, Thailand and Laos. Without money in Laos, he found work as an agricultural advisor for USAID. He began work as a press photographer in Laos stringing for UPI and AFP, having taught himself photography. His exclusive photographs of an attempted coup d’état in Laos in 1965 for UPI got him a staff position in the Saigon bureau of the news agency. He is celebrated for his work as a freelance accredited press photographer in Vietnam and Cambodia during the 1960s, also finding time to cover the Six-Day War in the Middle East in 1967. Due to a near-death experience in the early 1960s, he came to view his life as “free time”. This led him to take photographs in dangerous situations where other journalists would not venture. Similarly, Page was captivated by the excitement and glamour of warfare, which helped contribute to the style of photographs he is acclaimed for.
By late 1965 Page was sharing a house at 47 Bui Thi Xuan, Saigon with Leonardo Caparros and fellow correspondents Simon Dring, Martin Stuart-Fox and Steve Northup, known as “Frankie’s House” after the resident Vietnamese houseboy. Frankie’s House became a social club for a group of correspondents between field assignments and their friends with large quantities of drugs being used there. Page himself does not shy away from the drug culture he was involved in during his time in Vietnam, devoting a large amount of his book Page after Page to it. In Dispatches, Michael Herr wrote of Page as the most “extravagant” of the “wigged-out crazies running around Vietnam”, due in most respects to the amount of drugs that he enjoyed taking. His unusual personality was part of the inspiration for the character of the journalist played by Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now.
In 1965, shortly after Page got his first publication in Life magazine, Erik Durschmied was filming The Mills of the Gods: Vietnam for the CBC series Document. During three weeks of filming Durschmied became ill, Page was hired to continue until Durschmied was back to full health. About 25% of the documentary was shot by Page, he shot 850 feet of film, the final aired film used 450 of them. At a time when the anti-war movement was in its infancy, the film opened conversations around the world. In 1966, the film won the George Polk Award for Best Television Documentary and the Canadian Film Award for Film of the Year.
Page was injured in action four times. The first, in September 1965, was in Chu Lai where he was struck by shrapnel in the legs and stomach; the second was in Da Nang during Buddhist riots (1966), where he received more shrapnel wounds to the head, back, and arms; the third in August 1966 happened in the South China sea, where he was on board the Coast Guard cutter Point Welcome, when it was mistaken for a Viet Cong ship, and U.S. Air Force pilots strafed the vessel, leaving Page adrift at sea with over two hundred wounds. Lastly, in April 1969, Page jumped out of a helicopter to help load wounded soldiers. At the same time, a sergeant stepped on a mine close by, sending a 2-inch piece of shrapnel into Page’s head. This list of injuries led his colleagues in the field to joke that he would never make it to 23 years of age. He spent the next year in the United States undergoing extensive neuro-surgery. During recovery he became closely involved with the Vietnam Veterans Against the War and worked as a caregiver for amputees, traumatically shocked and stressed young men. One of these was Ron Kovic. Richard Boyle was also friends with Kovic and Page at this time.
On 9 December 1967, Page was arrested in New Haven, Connecticut along with fellow journalists Mike Zwerin and Yvonne Chabrier at the infamous Doors concert where Jim Morrison was arrested onstage. Charges against all four were dropped due to lack of evidence.
In the 1970s Page worked as a freelance photographer for music magazines such as Crawdaddy and Rolling Stone. In January 1973 Page spent time with Bill Cardoso and Hunter S. Thompson, who was covering Super Bowl VII. Page photographed Thompson riding a Black Shadow Motorbike, but Rolling Stone lost the negatives. Rolling Stone wanted Page to go back to Vietnam with Thompson in 1975 but Thompson said Page was too crazy. During Page’s recovery in the spring of 1970 he learnt of the capture of his best friend, roommate and fellow photo-journalist Sean Flynn in Cambodia. Throughout the 1970s and 80s he tried to discover Flynn’s fate and final resting place and wanted to erect a memorial to all those in the media who either were killed or went missing in the war. This led him to found the Indochina Media Memorial Foundation and was the genesis for the book Requiem, co-edited with fellow Vietnam War photographer Horst Faas. Page’s quest to clear up the mystery of Flynn’s fate continues; as late as 2009 he was back in Cambodia, still searching for the site of Flynn’s remains.
Page’s book Requiem contains photographs taken by all of the photographers and journalists killed during the Vietnamese wars against the Japanese, French and Americans. Requiem has become since early 2000 a traveling photographic exhibition placed under the custody of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film. The exhibition has been presented in Vietnam’s War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, as well as in New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Tokyo, Hanoi, Lausanne, and London. In 2011, it was selected to be the main exhibition of the Month of Photography Asia in Singapore.
Page was the subject of many documentaries and two films, and the author of many books. He lived in Brisbane, Australia, having retired from covering wars. He was Adjunct Professor of Photojournalism at Griffith University.
I had died. I lived. I had seen the tunnel. It was black. It was nothing. There was no light at the end. There was no afterlife. Nothing religious about any of it. And it did not seem scary. It was a long, flowing, no-color wave which just disappeared. The mystery was partly resolved, all the fearful church propaganda took on its true, shameful meaning. I was content. I was alive. I was not dead, and it seemed very clear, very free. This was the dawning, the overture to losing a responsible part of my psyche. A liberation happened at that intersection.